Is there anything better than spending an autumn afternoon with friends under the shade of an old oak tree?
I’m thinking not.
While staying on a peaceful farm this weekend, I discovered a new purpose for our dogs.
Or at least one of them.
I decided to call the pup Buddy, as I didn’t know his name.
The owner was busy working, so Buddy stepped right in as the perfect host.
He greeted me with excitement as I drove up the rocky road to the farmhouse then proudly started to show me around the place.
Buddy led me through the fields of corn and soybeans, over to the horses, and then to the vineyards just beyond.
Afterwards, he jumped right into my Subaru ready to give directions through the rolling hills towards the bakery in town to pick up carrot ginger muffins and lavender cookies.
At 70 pounds, Buddy’s 23 times as big as my tiny chi Junie B. who joined me on the trip.
But city girl Junie wasn’t afraid and appeared quite impressed by Buddy’s friendly demeanor, hosting skills, and his life as a farm dog.
I’m thinking she might like to learn to be a farm dog, and hostess, as well.
After all, we do know our dogs are never too old (or too small) to learn a few more new tricks.
My little friend and I were both up early to celebrate the first day of spring.
Sure, I understand the calendars say it arrived a month ago.
But the residents of Minnesota must have missed the memo.
Up here in the ‘bold north’ we’ve been breaking the kind of records that no one ever wants to break.
For example, surviving the coldest April in recorded history.
And also what definitely seemed like the longest winter of my life.
After last weekend’s blizzard our moods had gone south and were almost as heavy as the snow.
Still by midweek on a walk I’d discovered one beacon of hope atop a light post overlooking a soccer field.
It was a bold and beautiful bald eagle sitting on her favorite nest.
Apparently she’d just returned to the state as she knew spring was finally about to arrive.
I knew it as well today as the sun melted the last of the snow while I walked for hours out in the country.
I guess good things really do come to those who wait.
And I’m not going to miss one single thing.
When you live in the midwest, you never take a warm autumn day for granted.
At least I don’t.
So I chose this Sunday to stop by a farm I’m very fond of to see some friends.
They immediately ran up the hill to greet me.
It was if I they had something to share.
So did I, but I spoke first.
“Hey friends, snow flurries are forecast for later this week!”
They took off in a tizzy, though still managed to share a couple of smiles.
As for me and their Newfie guard dog, we peacefully looked at the crimson and gold trees and sparking water below.
We weren’t going to waste even a minute with worry on this beautiful day.
“That’s what winter’s for, right?” I said to the Newfie.
I think he nodded in agreement.
He then very calmly nodded off.
And so did I.
Labor Day weekend isn’t neccesarily labor free.
Hints of fall were already in the air yesterday as I turned the calendar page over to September.
The crisp morning air nudged me out of bed early to pull out my annual autumn ‘to do’ list.
But I felt a little cranky.
“It’s too early to be this cold,” I muttered to my dogs who kept on sleeping.
Still I had the day off and was sorely tempted to attend ‘Minnesota’s great get together’, also known as the State Fair.
But instead of venturing east to the fairgrounds in the city, I traveled west out into the countryside.
Sure, I was missing the opportunity to party with 186,000 of my closest friends and spend an average of $75.00 while there. And I do know new fair delicacies such as Bacon Up Pups are well worth the money and a 5 pound weight gain.
After all, what’s more blissful that a Belgian Waffle made in bacon batter and dipped in chocolate, next drizzled with maple syrup, and finally topped with whipped cream and even more bacon?
Well, perhaps a big frosty mug of Chocolate Chip Beer could do the job.
But I digress.
Anyway, I knew if I stopped in at the farm where I often hike I’d find a much healthier type of bliss while visiting with some sweet and smiling four legged friends.
And I’d also likely get back home in time to check off a few of my chores on that fall list.
My day went as planned.
In fact it was perfect.
I knew I’d even have time to sharpen my new box of shiny No. 2 pencils to bring to the school where I work next week.
And though I missed the State Fair’s epicurean delights, I was thrilled to come home with a free bag of fresh pole beans, potatoes and parsley.
While driving back home past the big sign advertising the local Hog Feast Social and a little sleepy pub called Grumpy’s, I thought how full and satisfied I was feeling.
And I wasn’t cranky in the least.
For me it truly was a Blue Ribbon kind of day, and I was the winner.
The ice around here has been cruel, but not the winter.
Yet both have taken a hiatus, at least for now.
Since its been a long while, I thought I’d walk a country mile.
My hunger for the smells, sights, and sounds of a rural spring were making me weak this morning.
And though our February thaw’s only a tease, I’ll take it.
I found myself leaving behind tax files on the kitchen table to deal with another day.
That day’s already penciled in for Saturday, when the snow and bitter cold’s expected to return.
After all, we know old man winter’s never been a pushover.